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On any list of the world's most spectacular islands, Kauai ranks right up there with Bora Bora, Huahine, and Rarotonga. All the elements are here: moody rainforests, majestic cliffs, jagged peaks, emerald valleys, palm trees swaying in the breeze, daily rainbows, and some of the most spectacular golden beaches you'll find anywhere. Soft tropical air, sunrise bird song, essences of ginger and plumeria, golden sunsets, sparkling waterfalls -- you don't just go to Kauai, you absorb it with every sense. This is the place for people who need to relax and heal jangled nerves, as well as those looking for hiking, swimming, golfing, and other adventures.

Beaches

On an island with some of the world's best beaches, you'll have no trouble finding the perfect one for you. On the North Shore, gentle waves roll across the golden sands of half-moon Hanalei Bay, where sheer volcanic ridges laced by waterfalls rise to 4,000 feet in the background, making it perfect for swimming, surfing, fishing, canoe paddling, and kayaking. On the south shore, big, wide Poipu Beach features a lava-rock jetty, protecting a sandy-bottomed pool that's perfect for children on one side and an open bay attracting swimmers, snorkelers, and surfers on the other.

Things to Do

Soar over the dramatic Na Pali Coast. The only way to see the spectacular, surreal beauty of Kauai is via a helicopter: dipping low over razor-thin cliffs, fluttering past sparkling waterfalls, and swooping down into the canyons and valleys of the fabled Waimea Canyon. The only problem is that there's too much beauty to absorb, and it all goes by in a rush. And plunge beneath the waves -- you haven't really seen Kauai until you have seen the magical world underwater.

Eating & Drinking

A trip to Kauai is not complete without indulging in Hawaii's culinary specialty, the luau. The oceanfront Mediterranean Gourmet is one of the island's best commercial luau, where you are treated to a traditional feast of kalua pig cooked in an imu (an underground pit lined with hot rocks to cook the pig), poi (a starch made from taro, which has the consistency of library paste with little or no taste), best combined with salty lomi salmon (chopped onions, tomatoes, and salmon), savory sweet potatoes, a crunchy fern shoot salad, and for dessert, haupia (coconut pudding).

Nature

Hike the spectacular beauty of the Na Pali Coast or the drama of the Waimea Canyon. Explore the beauty of rushing waterfalls thundering downward into sparkling freshwater pools, like the accessible 40-foot Opaekaa Falls. Or smell the sweet scent of flowers at Kauai's spectacular range of tropical flora in gardens like Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens on the North Shore, or Allerton Garden in Poipu and Limahuli outside of Hanalei.